MAY 2013 | 18robert starks jr“Trying to place an evolvingperson into the changingwork environment .... is liketrying to hi...
Subscribe at | 19Increased access to education has contributed to larger graduatecohorts wide...
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The evolution-of-career-services-transforming-the-way-career-colleges-deliver-career-services-career-college-central-robert-starks-jr.


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This article published in Career College Central Magazine discusses the need to re-think the delivery of career services in higher education and in career colleges specifically. It criticizes the Placement model discussing the origins of the model and why schools must evolve to meet the needs of the 21st century.

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  1. 1. MAY 2013 | 18robert starks jr“Trying to place an evolvingperson into the changingwork environment .... is liketrying to hit a butterfly with aboomerang.”– Mitchell Krumboltz (1996)The 21st century is characterized by an accelerated pace ofchange, rapid technological advancement and an increasinglyconnected world. These dynamics have transformed the labormarket and required career seekers to evolve with it. The skillsone needs to successfully find and secure employment as wellas manage, advance and transition one’s career are different forthe 21st century workforce, yet many career colleges still use acareer services delivery model from the 19th century.According to the Council for the Advancement of Standardsin Higher Education (2010), placement assistance began in the19th century when commercial employment agencies began toplace graduates of the nation’s teacher training programs intojobs. Placement models aligned with the needs of the timebecause they were established when small graduate cohorts wereentering a stable economy with little to no global competition.Furthermore, jobs typically had linear career paths and wereexpected to span one’s lifetime. Moreover, most jobs created inthe agricultural and industrial economies required unskilled orsemi-skilled labor. In addition to the realities of the 19th centuryeconomy, the placement approach was also influenced by earlydeveloping career theory.By Robert Starks Jr., MaxKnowledge Inc.Transforming theway career collegesdeliver careerservices.The concept of placement is rooted in the trait-and-factor theory ofoccupational choice developed in the early 1900s by Frank Parsons,the father of vocational guidance. The trait-and-factor theory isone among a group of theories referred to as matching theories.Trait-and-factor theory assumes that vocational guidance is arational decision-making process requiring an expert practitioner(e.g., career adviser) to evaluate candidates’ traits and match themto a best-fit job in the labor market. This approach to vocationalguidance continues to dominate the delivery of career services inhigher education institutions. Trait-and-factor theory still has valueand relevance, but it assumes a level of stability in both the workenvironment and the individual career seeker. Moreover, due to itsfocus on identifying existing traits, the theory does little to addressthe development of skills necessary for successfully securingemployment over the lifetime of a career seeker. Finally, becauseit necessitates an expert practitioner to conduct extensive traitevaluations, scalability is problematic, particularly with the adventof online education. Today’s professional environment is drasticallydifferent and continues to evolve at a rapid pace.TheEvolutionof CareerServices
  2. 2. Subscribe at | 19Increased access to education has contributed to larger graduatecohorts widely dispersed across the globe. Globalization hasmade economies interdependent and has increased competitionin the job market. Stability is no longer the norm for the modernworkforce; the average person today is likely to have severaljobs in his or her lifetime and change careers multiple times.Moreover, there is a rising trend of freelancing, contract workand self-employment, resulting in individuals having multiple“gigs” to pay the bills. Our very concept of work has changed.The idea of a job being a one-time, logical decision thatcontinues into the rest of our lives is no longer true. If everythingis so drastically different, why are we not witnessing disruptiveinnovation in the way career colleges approach the delivery ofcareer services?The 19th century placement model is outdated in a 21stcentury economy. Beyond the fact that placement is simplyan inaccurate and antiquated term for what career servicesprofessionals do, it perpetuates the fallacy that a career is theoutcome of a linear process. In today’s fast-paced, changingwork environment, career seekers must be agile, self-sufficientand comfortable navigating through a complex, evolving jobsearch and career management process to achieve their careergoals. Additionally, success is not only determined by careerseekers’ soft skills, technical skills or experience, but also bytheir employability skills – skills necessary for obtaining andkeeping a job, making job and career changes, and successfullyseeking career advancement. Career colleges obviously realizethis and work hard to address these necessary skills, but most doso with a career services delivery model primarily designed as asecondary service. Why is this so?In an article previously published in Career College Centralentitled “Mind the Gap,” a quote was included from a 2012 pressrelease by David J. Pauldine, President of DeVry University.“It is clear to us that effectively educating today’s workforcerequires market-driven curricula that provide students withrequisite hard and technical skills, as well as a competent levelof hands-on experience prior to graduation,” Pauldine said.Although this assertion is valid, employability skills area missing component because they are often viewed as“extracurricular” or not as critical as technical or soft skills. Thisexplains why, at most institutions, students must voluntarilychoose to participate in career services outside of the classroomto develop the necessary employability skills for career success.There is general agreement that employability skills are criticalto student success, yet they are typically absent or curtailedfrom curricula. Why are these skills typically missing fromcurricula, and why are the services provided by the career centernot required at most institutions?Career colleges have an incredible opportunity to rethink theway they deliver career services. The days of referring to careerservices as the back end of the career college environmentmust end. This thinking is driven by tradition, not the market.How can the process of vocational guidance start during theadmissions process? How can employability skills be embeddedinto existing curricula, and how can they be a significant part ofthe design of new educational programs? These are but a few ofthe questions we need to address in order to reshape the way wedeliver career services.Exemplary career development systems must be woven into thefabric of an institution rather than designed as a supplementalservice outside of the classroom. Based in systems thinking,we must examine the complex structures and behaviors of ourinstitutions to fully understand the interdependent relationshipsamong institutional infrastructure, students career readiness andgraduate employment rates. If we commit ourselves to gaining abetter understanding of how we can improve the design of ourcareer services delivery models, our students, their parents, ouremployers, our communities and our institutions will all benefit.Exemplary careerdevelopmentsystems mustbe woven intothe fabric of aninstitution, ratherthan designed as asupplementalservice outside ofthe classroom.Robert Starks Jr. is the Vice President of LearningInitiatives for MaxKnowledge Inc., the leading employeetraining company for the career college sector ofhigher education. His experience in career services,alumni relations and community outreach in the careereducation sector earned him four Best Practice Awardsfrom the Arizona Private School Association. Starksearned his Master of Science in Management fromColorado Technical University and his undergraduate degree in Marketingfrom Arizona State University. He is the Director of Media and Technologyfor the Arizona Career Development Association (ACDA) and the Founderof Robert can be found on Twitter @robertstarksjr andcontacted at